Last week, the Center for Sustainable Shale Development announced it had hired Susan Packard LeGros, a Philadelphia-area environmental attorney, as its executive director. LeGros is replacing interim director Andrew Place, who is also the head of public policy research for Pittsburgh gas driller EQT Corporation.
As we discussed in our report “Big Green Fracking Machine,” though CSSD bills itself as an “unprecedented collaboration” between the drilling industry and environmental groups “to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through performance standards and third-party certification,” the group is dominated by oil and gas interests and appears to be less an independent certifier than a greenwash effort to improve the natural gas industry’s public image. LeGros is an apt complement to CSSD’s model. She comes to the Center from Stevens & Lee, a law firm with several offices in the Mid-Atlantic region that lists her as a contact for its oil and gas practice. LeGros is also a former director of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, an environmental group whose friendly ties to the gas industry we detailed on this blog last year.
Along with its announcement of LeGros’s hiring, CSSD announced that it will begin certifying gas drillers as “sustainable” this year, though the third party auditor will be Bureau Veritas rather than the previously reported ICF International. After the controversy surrounding CSSD board member and now former Heinz Endowments President Bobby Vagt‘s failure to disclose his board position on pipeline company Kinder Morgan, the involvement of one of CSSD’s main fiscal sponsors became questionable. This week’s announcements signal that, with or without the involvement of the Heinz Endowments, the show will go on at the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.
The news articles accompanying the LeGros hire describe the new CSSD director as an environmental lawyer from Philadelphia. Since 2001, LeGros has been of counsel to Stevens & Lee, a Pennsylvania firm with a presence in many Mid-Atlantic cities, to their environmental and energy practices.
Stevens & Lee has an oil and gas practice for which LeGros is listed as a contact. On their website, the firm describes their oil and gas business:
Given our deep Pennsylvania heritage, Stevens & Lee is well-positioned to assist a wide range of parties regarding opportunities in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, which are among the largest unconventional natural gas reserves in the world. With locations throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including three offices in the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania, we are geographically positioned to provide effective and responsive legal and professional services to upstream, midstream, downstream and related service companies operating within this area.
The firm is also registered to lobby for Interstate Gas Supply and the UGI Corporation in Pennsylvania.
According to LeGros’s Stevens & Lee biography, before she joined that firm she worked in the legal department of an international chemical company. In 2003, she gave a presentation to the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council with Terry Bossert, a former Stevens & Lee environmental practice leader who went on to work for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection before ending up as the vice president of government and regulatory affairs at Chief Oil & Gas. When they spoke there, PCIC’s president was another Pennsylvania revolving door figure – former Bravo Group lobbyist and current Public Utility Commissioner Pamela Witmer. The chemical industry is reliant on natural gas and PCIC coordinates with the Marcellus Shale Coalition according to its website.
Susan LeGros was also a board member of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council from 2003 through 2009 according to the group’s financial statements.
The PEC has strong ties to the oil and gas industry; we found last year that half of the group’s board worked for companies belonging to the Marcellus Shale Coalition (in fact, Terry Bossert served on the group’s board from 2005 to 2010). The Council is also a sponsor of CSSD.
With the LeGros pick for executive director and the selection of Bureau Veritas for accreditation, the Center for Sustainable Shale Development has indicated that it will continue its effort to give gas drilling the veneer of environmental responsibility. In keeping with its history of industry control, CSSD has chosen an executive director with ties to both the natural gas industry and a fracking-friendly environmental group.